|Rita, Katrina add urgency to Kyoto, say delegates|
By DENNIS BUECKERT
OTTAWA (CP) - Hurricanes Rita and Katrina will add urgency to continuing discussions on the future of the Kyoto climate treaty, say delegates at a diplomatic conference that opened here Friday.
The devastating storms are seen as part of a pattern of increasing extreme weather around the world, in line with longstanding predictions based on computer models.
"You can almost never say that a particular event is caused by climate change," said Margaret Beckett, British secretary of state for the environment, interviewed during a break in the meeting.
"You couldn't necessarily say, 'That hurricane, that storm, that flood only happened because of climate change,' (but) you're starting to see a pattern of extreme weather events."
The purpose of the meeting is to seek common ground in preparation for a much larger conference, the first meeting of the parties to the Kyoto protocol, set for Montreal in November.
Anders Turesson, chief negotiator for Sweden, said he hopes the current spate of hurricanes has an impact on the debate.
"It's terrible that weather phenomena like these seem to be required in order to wake up the political awareness, but if that would be the case, I think it would be a good thing."
Two major studies this year have suggested that hurricanes are increasing in intensity and destructiveness because of rising sea surface temperatures.
Carl Marshall, high commissioner for Jamaica, said it is obvious that hurricanes are growing more powerful. Jamaica has seen three hurricanes in two years, and the Caribbean has recently seen its first category-five hurricane.
Arcado Ntagazwa, Tanzania's environment minister, said his country is seeing many signs of climate change, including droughts, unpredictable rainfall regime, food insecurity and sea level rise.
"You've got coastal areas where they depend on shallow wells and bore holes and sea level rise is causing sea water to percolate into these reservoirs. That's a hell of a problem for the government of a developing country like Tanzania."
The meeting is being attended by representatives of the United States and Australia although both countries have rejected the Kyoto treaty, which requires signatories to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
"We're very committed to saving the climate and recognize that it's a huge threat," said Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell.
"In my home state of Western Australia, we've already identified a 25 per cent reduction in rainfall over the last 30 or 40 years. The government has basically put in place close to $2 billion in domestic measures."
Campbell said Australia will not join the Kyoto process, but will work through other forms of international co-operation.